link to picture of Theodore Maiman
Theodore Maiman launched the laser age by demonstrating the world's first laser on 16 May 1960. Other groups had already started trying to build lasers when Maiman decided to tackle the problem in mid-1959. He owed his quick success to a particularly elegant design and a keen understanding of the properties of the material he used, synthetic ruby.
Small enough to fit in his hand, the ruby laser worked on the first try - a rarity in cutting-edge research made possible by Maiman's knowledge of physics and his knack for engineering. The ruby laser also changed the course of laser development; unlike the other types being developed at the time, it concentrated its power into pulses. Engineers soon tested pulsed lasers by blasting holes in razor blades and measuring their power in "gillettes" (the number of razor blades through which the laser could burn a hole). Physicists used pulsed lasers to discover new optical effects. Charles Townes, who received the 1964 Nobel Prize in physics for developing the maser-laser principle, called Maiman's laser "an important start to a tremendously important field of science and technology".
Picture from Elk Industries
It was only twelve years later that we were using them to solve a difficult problem in making narrow deep holes in "unmachinable" materials with a depth/width ratio of some 15/1.